January 2021

What did City Council do?

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Ontario Electricity Grid Motion

This was the first motion I have ever written into the public record and Council unanimously approved it.  I hope that this motion along with similar motions written by other Councils across Ontario is reviewed and ultimately acted on by the Province.  We know that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has invested nearly $3 Billion on gas plants in Ontario recently.  This is in response to the need to replace electricity supply from the pending closure of the Pickering Nuclear Plant.  According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), this increased reliance on gas-fired power plants will increase GHG emissions from the grid by 300% by 2025 and 400% by 2040 (compared to 2017 data).  This matters to residents of the City of Waterloo because we have listened to our residents and declared a climate emergency.  The hard work the City has to do in order to reduce our GHG emissions 80% by 2050 will be undermined, in part, by these increases from the grid.  To underscore this, the work that previous Provincial governments (of all parties) have taken to eliminate coal-fired power plants has reduced the corporations GHG emissions by approximately 6%.  A further 10% reduction is achievable if the entire grid was secured from renewable sources.  I asked the Province to develop and implement a plan to phase out gas fired electricity generation by 2030 and I asked City staff to consider scenarios related to changes to the grid in any future documents we are considering at the City.

Kitchener-Waterloo Joint Service Initiatives Update

Council received an update on some of the projects that the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo are working collaboratively on.  Since 2014, there have been more than 75 initiatives that have been explored.  This past year we completed projects exploring contracts regarding sidewalk and road inspections, fleet and inventory software sharing, specialized fire training and more.  There are also ongoing initiatives with respect to inclusionary zoning, storm water management, speed limits and more.  I am always appreciative of learning more about how the cities are working together to increase our levels of service to residents and improve efficiency.

Neighbourhood Strategy Implementation

Council also received an update on neighbourhood strategy initiatives throughout the City.  Neighbourhood cohesion has been particularly challenging in COVID times, staff have had to pivot on a number of projects, which makes the progress impressive to see.  We have recruited 34 block connectors, including 15 in areas without official neighbourhood associations.  Additionally we have created a variety of mini grants that have helped a variety of projects throughout the City.  Our At Home garden pilot was extremely successful and we have provided ongoing support to community garden programs and rink programs throughout the City.  Leveraging the passionate hard working volunteer group that we have in all of our neighbourhoods is invaluable to the City.  I certainly appreciate the hard work of all of our volunteers, whether with a neighbourhood association creating events, built a local community garden, spent hours meticulously flooding a rink for the neighbourhood to enjoy or even if you have done your own volunteering within the community to make this a great place to live.  Thank you so much!  I will always be a supporter of these kinds of initiatives and encourage the City to continue to support and harness this passion for our communities.  If you have an idea, do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will get you in contact with the appropriate folks.

Draft Transportation Master Plan (TMP)

Staff and Council have been working on the TMP for the better part of a year and the draft plan was approved this month.  The draft plan focuses on planning for what the transportation network for the City of Waterloo will look like out to 2041.  It is a document I am proud of to this point and look forward to finalizing and implementing in the coming months and years.  Feedback can be provided until February 19 at the following link – https://www.engagewr.ca/transportation-master-plan-looking-ahead?fbclid=IwAR30GMRD_9cgR-HG4iuOJDE7sf0PE6B7wzI3e0nt8aV_AcTkp7llglajaPY.  The focus of the plan is on three elements: Active Transportation, Vision Zero and Speed Management.  There were a few interesting takeaways and pieces of feedback from residents that I though worth highlighting:

  • Although the City has seen a 6.3% population increase from 2011 to 2016, we have seen a decline in vehicle ownership of 3.1%.
  • Although mode share has increased for cycling and walking by 5%, 80% of our trips are still by car.
  • 75% of all trips within the City are less than 8km in length, but only 13% are using active modes for those trips.
  • Residents have advised that sidewalk and cycling infrastructure are key to increasing mode share, which leads to the TMP updating our Complete Streets policy and reaffirming our commitment to our sidewalk policy.
  • Wider travel lanes lead to higher speeds, greater severity of collisions and higher cost to the City.

There are 56 recommended actions to be considered over the length of this plan, including:

  • Considering priority routes for snow clearing on sidewalk and cycling routes
  • Filling in sidewalk and cycling network gaps
  • Creating a road safety policy that aligns with Vision Zero
  • Developing a speed management program in residential neighbourhoods
  • Parking reform

Finally, there are a number of Ward 2 (and Ward 2 adjacent) proposed active transportation projects that are under consideration over the length of this plan:

  • Segregated cycling lanes on Laurelwood (from Erbsville to Bearinger), Keats Way (from Erbsville to University) and Columbia (from Erbsville to Rhine Fall)
  • Additional conceptual connections on Columbia Street, Laurelwood (into the R&T Park), and from Brandenburg to Erbsville (through Clair Field)

This is a significant document with a lot of information that touches on traffic safety, speed limits, 20-minute cities, Vision Zero, active transportation, transit oriented development, safe cycling and pedestrian routes, snow clearing priorities, climate action and more.  I encourage you to provide feedback through the aforementioned link and to reach out to me with any further questions you may have.

Backyard Fires and Backyard Hens

Council heard from a couple of passionate community members advocating for a relaxing of municipal enforcement rules surrounding backyard fires and backyard hens.  As a first term Councillor who has not had the opportunity to engage in either of these topics, I appreciate the opportunity to learn more and am happy to see Council support a staff directive to review both topics in detail.  I have researched the backyard fire topic thoroughly over the past couple of months and have learned a lot about the hurdles and challenges that come along with a relaxing of these rules.  That said, I am eager to engage further with community members on this topic to share information and solicit feedback.  I will be hosting a Ward 2 Town Hall on the topic of Backyard Fires and Backyard Hens on February 16 at 8pm.  Whether you are an ardent supporter, are very troubled by this conversation or if you would just like to learn more about both topics, I strongly encourage you to join in and provide feedback – https://www.facebook.com/events/853291081881380.

Additional Council business this month included; contract renewal with the KW Humane Society, funding release for Waterloo Park Master Plan initiatives, a deferral of funding release for the reconstruction of Union Street, and an expression of interest for Federal government funding pertaining to energy efficient buildings.  Council also unanimously approved a motion from Councillor Hanmer pertaining to a request to the Provincial government to permit Inclusionary Zoning in locations outside of Major Transit Station Areas.  If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a chat.

Outside of the Council Chambers

Outside of Council, I continue to enhance my education on climate issues, with my enrolment in part two of the FCM Climate Leadership Course for Elected Officials.  This month and next month there are sessions on climate communications.  I hope to take these skills to engage better with my constituents on climate related topics.  Additionally we have officially started the second term for our Council committees.  I am pleased to continue to serve on both the Sustainability Advisory Committee and Economic Development Committee.  This month was a great opportunity to introduce new community members who have joined these committees and to take stock of where we are and where we intend to go in advising Council.

Take care and stay safe!